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Laurence Freedman is a member in the Washington, DC office. Larry’s health care and life sciences litigation practice focuses on defending clients against allegations and investigations of fraud and abuse involving governmental programs.  He is highly experienced in representing clients against actions brought by federal and state agencies including the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS OIG), the United States Attorneys’ Offices, and state OIGs and Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs).

The all-too-common story of a healthcare company declaring bankruptcy in the face of aggressive Medicare recoupment actions before the company even has a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may get a new ending – at least in the Fifth Circuit.  Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case, Family Rehabilitation, Inc. v. Azar, back to the district court and thus it is still too soon to tell the ultimate outcome, it reversed the district court and held that there is jurisdiction for a district court to enjoin CMS recoupment during the administrative appeals process.  This decision is a big win for companies navigating the difficult and seemingly one-sided process of Medicare recoupment actions. Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Decision is Rare Victory Permitting District Court to Enjoin Recoupment Before Provider Exhausts Administrative Remedies

Two new DOJ policies about False Claims Act enforcement became public last week. First, DOJ’s Associate Attorney General announced a new civil enforcement policy that instructs False Claims Act litigators not to use any sub-regulatory guidance to create legal obligations. Second, we learned that DOJ’s Civil Fraud section instructed all False Claims Act litigators to consider whether declined qui tam actions should be dismissed under the Department’s authority in Section 3730(c)(2)(A) of the False Claims Act. The central theme of this policy is that dismissal of qui tam actions is warranted when it is in the federal interest to do so, and the policy clearly sets out seven such federal interests. Continue Reading Perspective on DOJ Pivot on FCA Enforcement Policy

Throughout 2017, the lower courts built upon the standard for determining materiality under the False Claims Act (FCA) established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016) (“Escobar”). In Escobar, decided in June 2016, the Court endorsed the “implied false certification” theory of liability under the FCA, premised on a “rigorous” and “demanding” element of “materiality.”  As expected, this decision triggered a spate of litigation over what “materiality” means, and how to apply this requirement.

By way of background, the Court held that the “implied false certification” theory has two elements:

  • “the claim does not merely request payment, but also makes specific representations about the goods or services provided,” and
  • the defendant’s “failure to disclose noncompliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements makes those representations misleading half-truths.”

The Court described the materiality standard as centered on “the likely or actual behavior” of the agency that made the payment decision, not whether the agency had the legal authority to deny payment, as argued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) prior to the Court’s decision. To be material, the Court reasoned, the misrepresentation must go to the essence of the bargain, and noncompliance cannot be “minor or insubstantial.”  The Court noted that materiality can be determined based on a number of factors – none of which are dispositive – and held that a court’s decision, though fact-specific, still could lead to dismissal on a motion to dismiss or at summary judgment. Those looking for additional background on the Escobar decision should see our Health Care Enforcement Defense AdvisoryContinue Reading Health Care Enforcement Year in Review and 2018 Outlook: The False Claims Act’s Materiality Standard as Established by Escobar Continues to Evolve

Earlier this week we released a Health Care Enforcement Advisory about a recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that may have a significant impact on the element of “materiality” in False Claims Act (FCA) cases.  A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit overturned a district court decision after a jury found the defendant, Trinity Industries, Inc. (Trinity), liable under the FCA for changing its highway guardrail design without disclosing such changes to the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”).  The Fifth Circuit decided as a matter of law that the case lacked the element of “materiality” required in FCA cases. Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Limits FCA Liability Due to Lack of “Materiality” in Highway Guardrails Case

A court in the Southern District of New York (“SDNY” or the “Court”) recently released an important decision applying the Supreme Court’s landmark Escobar ruling to a qui tam action involving percentage fee arrangements for billing agents.  Among other claims, the City of New York (“the City”) and its billing agent, Computer Sciences Corporation (“CSC”) allegedly used an illegal incentive-based compensation arrangement for CSC’s services when billing New York Medicaid for services provided to eligible children under New York’s Early Intervention Program (“EIP”).   EIP provides “early intervention services” to certain children with development delays using federal funds provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  EIP allows municipalities like the City to pay providers directly for EIP services and then seek reimbursement from other payors, like third party payors and New York Medicaid.

Continue Reading Implied False Certification Theory Fails in FCA Case Against Billing Agent

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a $34 million settlement with Mercy Hospital Springfield (“Hospital”) of Springfield, Missouri, and its affiliate Mercy Clinic (“Clinic”). The settlement resolves an allegation that the Clinic violated the Stark Law by compensating twelve Clinic physicians in a manner that took into account the volume and value of the physicians’ referrals to the Hospital’s infusion center.  The U.S. contended that the defendants’ Stark Law violations caused their reimbursement claims to Medicare for infusion services to violate the False Claims Act. Continue Reading Hospital and its Clinic Agree to $34 Million Settlement to False Claims Act Allegation that Compensation to Oncologists Violated the Stark Law

In a closely watched False Claims Act (“FCA”) case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has an unreviewable right to object to a proposed settlement agreement between a relator and a defendant when the Government has declined to intervene in the case. United States ex rel. Michaels v. Agape Senior Community, Inc., No. 15-2145 (4th Cir. Feb 14, 2017).  In addition, as most expected, the court declined to decide the legal issue whether FCA plaintiffs may rely on statistical sampling of claims to prove FCA liability and damages, concluding that it had “improvidently granted” an interlocutory appeal of the lower court’s ruling on the use of statistical sampling.  This decision thus leaves intact the district court’s decision that rejected the relator’s proposed use of statistical sampling to prove FCA liability and damages.  The Fourth Circuit’s decision not to address the use of sampling in FCA cases leaves many open questions. Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Permits DOJ to Reject an FCA Settlement, But Punts Decision on Statistical Sampling

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah joined the AseraCare court and others in finding that a relator cannot successfully allege violations of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) based on a purported lack of medical necessity unless there is an objective standard articulated by Medicare.  In fact, District Judge Jill Parrish cited the AseraCare case and many federal appellate decisions when granting dismissal – with prejudice – in United States ex rel. Polukoff v. St. Mark’s et al., No. 16-cv-00304 (D. Utah 2017)Continue Reading Another Court Agrees That A Difference Of Opinion On Medical Necessity Is Insufficient to Show Falsity Under the False Claims Act

While 2016 marked one of the least productive years in the history of Congress, the same cannot be said of health care enforcement and regulatory agencies.  Perhaps motivated by the impending change in administration, these agencies promulgated a number of notable regulations in 2016, including:

  • A Department of Justice (DOJ) Interim Final Rule that significantly increases penalties under the False Claims Act (FCA), making already high stakes litigation even higher.
  • An Interim Final Rule from the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) and other agencies increasing civil penalties for violations of various statutes and regulations, including the Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMPL) and its implementing regulations.
  • A Final Rule that addresses the OIG’s expanded authority under the CMPL.
  • A long-awaited Final Rule from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) concerning the “60 Day Rule” for returning overpayments.
  • A Final Rule from the OIG that amends the safe harbors under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and adds exceptions under the CMPL’s beneficiary inducement prohibition.

Below we discuss the highlights of each rule and how we expect each to impact the enforcement environment in 2017 and beyond. Continue Reading Health Care Enforcement Review and 2017 Outlook: Significant Regulatory Developments

Last month, we reported on a Massachusetts federal court jury’s decision to acquit the former CEO of Warner Chilcott in one of the first prosecutions of a health care executive following the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) Yates Memo.  Last week, another Massachusetts federal court jury acquitted two more former health care executives of felony charges following another closely watched post-Yates-Memo prosecution.  This time, the jury found William Facteau, the former CEO of Acclarent, and Patrick Fabian, Acclarent’s former Vice President of Sales, not guilty of 14 counts of felony fraud related to Acclarent’s off-label promotion of a medical device (although the jury did find them guilty of related misdemeanor charges). Continue Reading Another Jury Acquits in One of the First Few Prosecutions of Health Care Executives Following DOJ’s Yates Memo